Today in Florida History: Jan. 28, 1986: Space Shuttle Challenger blows up!
The disaster released live on TV — and those that watched were unusually young.
Christa McAduliffe, a high-school teacher from New Hampshire, was one of the seven; she was set to be the first civilian and teacher in space. NASA had established a satellite broadcast of the full mission for students to watch the historic moment in schools across the nation.
Clarence Searles a second-grader at Challenger Elementary School in New Jersey that year. Clarence loved planes and had always wanted to be an astronaut, and he remembers sitting with the other children in his class to watch the launch. “Pretty much everything had stopped” when the Challenger exploded, he remembers.
That night, President Ronald Reagan addressed the country, conversing directly to the nation’s children: “I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery.”“We were all trying to make sense of it,” Kathryn Stuart says. Kathryn’s second-grade class at Blankner Elementary in Orlando, Florida, watched the launch from the school playground. “They took us off the playground as quickly as they could, and we went back to class.”
It was later determined that cold weather, combined with a design flaw, led to the accident. A seal on one of the solid rocket boosters was not working properly. The disaster grounded NASA’s space shuttle program for nearly three years.